Monthly Archives: August 2017

Teaching Tuesday: The open house blues

I’m a parent who always goes to open house. Even when open house falls on the first teacher work day and I’ve spent 8 hours at my own school, rushed to meet my husband for a quick dinner and then had to come all the way back to the elementary school my kids go to (which is next door to my school and 45 minutes from our house) and we don’t even make it home until nearly 8 pm, I go.

This year the teachers hadn’t even met my kids and I went to open house so I could meet them and see their classrooms. I wanted to hear about their teaching philosophies and learn what the year has in store for my kiddos, one of whom was a little more excited to go back to school than the other.

My enthusiasm for open house at my school, however, is not nearly as strong. It’s not because I don’t love my job. I truly do. I cannot really imagine being anything other than a teacher (well, except rock star, famous author or movie star, but I’m not sure my real-life self will be as good at these jobs as my dream life self is).

The reason I dread open house night at my school is because of the 120 students I currently have enrolled in all of my classes, I met parents of about 30 of my students. Unlike the classrooms at the elementary school where each room was packed so full many parents were standing, my classroom  had a sea of open desks.

When I asked my students why their parents didn’t show up, the reply I got most was something along the lines of, “I’m almost out of school and my parents don’t think they need to come.” Basically, since my students are juniors and seniors, most of their parents don’t feel the need to come and meet their teachers, find out what their kids will be learning or get involved beyond signing a course expectation sheet and maybe (and this is a BIG maybe) dropping me an email if their kid’s grade dips down below a C.

What floors me is that the majority of my students are Advanced Placement English kids, who are all college bound. I would think these would be some of the most supportive and enthusiastic parents. My guess is that many of the parents feel like they don’t need to come to open house because their kids are advanced and probably will not struggle much in school.

But really, what kind of a message does this send to the kids? School is very important at the elementary level. Or at least important enough for their parents to give up an evening to come and meet their teachers. Even in middle school open house attendance rates are pretty high in my district. But for each birthday kids celebrate, fewer parents show up to school events like open house.

To me it sends a message that school isn’t a priority anymore. Their kids are almost out, so they don’t need to care as much. This may not be entirely harmful to the parents, but the kids see this message and that’s where I think the real issue lies. If kids don’t see their parents interested enough to go to the school and meet their teachers and hear about their classes, are they as likely to be interested?

I really feel that as parents, we need to make it clear to our kids that their education, no matter what level they are at, is important. It is important enough for us to give up our free time and come in to learn about what they will be learning. Even at 18, most children still really care what their parents think and they pick up on the messages, even the subtle ones, they send out.

I know that when my kids are in high school, I am going to make my husband come to open house. He will go around and meet all of their teachers (they’ll be going to my high school, so I’ll already know them). I want my kids to know that their education is important to both their parents, not just their geeky ol’ school lovin’ mom.

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Chocolate Monday: Sanders Favorites

Sanders fullMy gym is directly next door to Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market, which is especially convenient when I’ve forgotten an ingredient I need for dinner. Although it doesn’t happen very often, it is nice to be able to just pop next door, especially since the grocery store right around the corner from my house has gone out of business.

The only downside to Fresh Thyme is that no matter what time of day I go in that building, there is always a line at the checkout and it moves exceedingly slowly. While it does make me uncomfortable, as I am usually still sweating a bit from my workout (and I hate being smelly in public), it also gives me more than enough time to check out all the impulse buys by the register.

On a recent trip to grab the cauliflower I’d forgotten at Kroger that same morning, I was stuck behind a family who only had a few items to scan, but a lot of questions for the cashier about the prices of their items. Luckily, a few pieces of brightly colored cellophane caught my eye: I spied chocolate.

In a tiny plastic container were individual treats from Sanders Candy. I’d never heard of this company before, so I figured my overly long wait was a sign from the cocoa gods that there was a possible treasure to be discovered. I grabbed one of each chocolate to take home.

Sanders turtleFirst up was the Chocolate Pecan Tortie…in other words…a turtle. My step-mom used to be absolutely crazy about any brand of turtle. Yes, I realize that technically there is only one turtle brand of turtle, but it’s pretty much a universal term for anything chocolate, caramel and pecan that comes in a small, turtle-like shaped lump. In fact, when I was first learning to make my own chocolates, I learned how to make turtles just for her (they are amazingly simple). While everyone else in my family got a box of assorted truffles and filled candies I made, she got a box of nothing but turtles and was thrilled.

Sanders’ turtle is pretty much what you expect out of a turtle. Chocolaty, chewy and a bit crunchy. The pecans were actually fairly small, so there was just enough to get stuck in my teeth with the caramel, but not quite enough to really give it a truly nutty taste. It was a perfectly ok turtle, but nothing to write home about. Turtles have never really been one of my favorite chocolate treats, but I like them just fine. And I’d say that’s what this one was…just fine.

Sanders caramelNext up was the Milk Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel. Sea salt caramels are an absolute favorite of mine, which is why I saved this one for last. What can I say? I’m a save the best for last kind of gal. At first glance, I didn’t see any sea salt on this chocolate at all, which was rather annoying as the picture on the package shows a few dozen shiny pieces of salt on top of the candy. It was only after I took a bite that I saw a few grains. I generally like my sea salt caramel to have a heavier dose of salt. I don’t want it to be potato chip salty, but at least enough so that every bite has a bite to it and I truly get to experience the sweet and salty.

It was chocolaty and chewy and had just a tiny hint of sea salt, but once again, it was just fine. There is nothing wrong with fine chocolate. I’d take either one of these pieces over a plain ol’ Hershey bar any day. If a student gave them to me as a gift or I got them in my Christmas stocking, I’d eat them and be ok with them. I just wouldn’t seek either of them out again. They were too much like so many other company’s versions that nothing about them stood out.


Taste: 5/10
Appearance: 3/10
Value: 4/10 (Each piece was about .75).


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Free Reading Friday: Prayers for the Stolen

prayers for the stolenAlthough I’ve already posted reviews of several other Eliot Rosewater book nominees for the 2017-2018 year, Prayers for the Stolen was actually one of the first ones I read this summer. When I borrowed it from the school library at the end of May, I didn’t realize I actually already owned a copy.

I’d read about the book as part of an offer one of the publishing companies makes to teachers: preview copies for only $3 each. The idea is to see if the book is one you might want to teach in class and then order an entire class set or two. I often take advantage of this deal as I’m always looking for new books that might be interesting to teach. Plus, cheap books…who can pass that up?

The blurb in the catalog was enticing to me. A story about a young girl in a rural Mexican village where all the men leave in order to seek their fortunes. A town where girls disappear with such regularity that mothers purposely make their daughters look ugly and dig holes in their yards in order to hide girls so the cartels won’t kidnap them. A town where girls are educated, but only when there is a teacher willing to come to the village. A town where it is not uncommon for a best friend to disappear, but is unheard for her to ever return.

Except, of course, in this book she does.

Jennifer Clement offers up a beautifully disturbing book. While targeted at a YA audience, I think adults will find equal merit in this book. I find it hard to type the word “enjoy” as the book deals with very serious issues including child slavery, kidnapping, murder, drug cartels, alcoholism, adultery and abandonment and has so much tragedy in it. Still, I found the book captivating and could not put it down. Clement’s prose is poetic and haunting.

Ladydi, the main character (named because her mother was obsessed with Princess Diana), is a young woman in one of the most vulnerable situations imaginable. And yet, she rises through each horrific event and becomes stronger. She is powerful and empathetic and will open reader’s eyes to a world they’ve probably never even thought about before. It’s so easy to turn our backs on problems we cannot see, especially when they exist far from our doors, if not far from our borders.


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Throwback Thursday: stuffed animals

delia's bed.jpgWhen I was a kid, one of the many things that drove my mother crazy was the fact that I was, well, kind of a messy kid. Like most kids, it’s not like I was trying to be messy, I just had a TON of toys and didn’t really like to clean them up. I used to make up elaborate stories for all of my dolls and I was convinced that if I put my toys away, I would forget the stories I’d created and have to start all over again. Never mind that I have a crazy good memory and could easily recall all the very, very, very intricate details of the fantasy worlds I created for my toys. Or that I loved creating new stories. I didn’t want anything, or anyone messing with my narratives.

It did not help matters that I had about a million toys. While this is slight hyperbole, like many children of divorce, in order to help make up for the devastation of not having my family together anymore, my parents and my extended family bought me things. Since I only got to see my dad and his side of the family for 6-8 weeks out of the year, and never on my birthday, every holiday was accompanied by truckloads of presents. Within reason, if I wanted it, I got it.

I am not trying to brag here, I’m just trying to paint a picture of just how many toys I had. Among these toys were a heck of a lot of dolls and stuffed animals. I don’t know exactly how many I had, but I know I had 13 Cabbage Patch Kids, a CPK horse, Koosa, Furskin bear, Rainbow Bright, and at least two dozen other small stuffed animals. And they all slept with me…every night.

My mom would get so frustrated, in part because there was barely enough room for me on my bed. However, I always managed to find a perfectly comfy, tiny bit of my bed to sleep on, usually while cuddling at least three of my stuffed toys. I was actually pretty good about arranging them so that I could get in and out of my bed with relative ease.

I’m sharing this story because now that I am a mom, I finally understand my mom’s absolute wonder and disbelief with how I managed to sleep each night. My son, who is 10, has always had a few favorite stuffed animals. They reside on his bed, but his monkey George, who he has had since birth, is the only one he really cares about having on his bed. My daughter, on the other hand, is truly my child. The picture at the top of this post is of part of her bed. I have lost count of how many animals and dolls she sleeps with, but I think she surpassed my number a long time ago–and she’s only 7.

While the majority of her stuffies are tiny (many of them she’s won from the claw game at our local bowling alley/arcade), even tiny stuffed animals can create quite a pile. She has so many animals and dolls on her bed that I do not understand how she can sleep on it. And yet, just like I did, she does.

It’s amazing how with no prompting from me whatsoever, she has picked up the same habit I had in my childhood.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Third Love bras

Third Love braA few weeks ago I admitted that I am an avid online shopper. In this day and age, I think most people are. However, a more guilty secret is that I am actually one of those people who sees advertisements on Facebook and buys products from them. I actually found my favorite clothing company, eshakti, this way.

Thanks to Facebook, I also discovered Third Love, a company that sells bras and panties.

I have always been a sucker for a good bra. I have a group of friends who tease each other about the amount of money we are willing to spend on certain products. One of my friends will spend outrageous sums on the “perfect” jeans. I have watched as she’s dropped $120 on a pair of jeans that she swears are the best jeans ever. I’ve actually seen her buy multiple pairs of these jeans in case something happens to the first pair. To me, this is nuts. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $35 on jeans. I love jeans, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not overly picky about them.

One of my other friends spends gobs of money on shoes. It’s not just that she has a lot of shoes (although she does), but that it’s no problem for her to drop over $100 on a pair of boots she likes or sandals she thinks will go perfect with an outfit she has. It pains me to pay $50 for a pair of really nice dress boots. I’ve only done it once and I’d really like to never do it again.

Another friend has a real thing for purses. Fancy ones. I just don’t get it. I like my messenger type bags and while I do have a small collection of them, none of them have cost me more than a Jackson.

Before I reveal my weakness, I’d like to point out that this is not just some silly “girly” thing. My husband, who does not really give two figs for what he wears, has spent upwards of $400 on ONE card for the collectible card game he plays. He seriously puts all of my spending on clothes, chocolate, school supplies and small trinkets to SHAME. That man can spend.

Anyway, I have two items I am willing to spend exorbitant amounts on. The first is chocolate, which should surprise no one as every Monday I do a chocolate blog. The second is bras and underwear.

I am always on a quest to find the perfect bra. For most of my adult life this means shopping at Victoria’s Secret. I know a lot of people have issues with them because their bra selection gets very limited past a certain size, but I was not blessed/cursed with very large breasts, so I’ve never had trouble finding a bra that fit there. In fact, my two absolute favorite bras of all time have come from there.

Well, until now. For several months I saw the Third Love bra ad. The ad claims that their bras are so comfortable you will forget you are even wearing them. Plus, as an added incentive to buy from their company, they offer potential customers a chance to try before they buy.

For the cost of shipping ($2.99), they will send you their signature t-shirt bra. You can wear it for 30 days. You can wash it as often as you’d like. If you are not 100% satisfied with the bra, you can send it back. According to the flyer that comes with the bra, they donate all returned bras to women’s organizations across the country. If you don’t return it after 30 days, your credit card is charged $68 and the bra is yours forever.

Now, I’m willing to pay quite a bit for a comfy bra, but even for me, $68 is a bit steep. I think the most I’ve ever paid is $52. However, my favorite bra has really been showing its age (ie was so lovingly worn as it was nearly falling apart). The last bra I’d purchased from Victoria’s Secret is that comfy, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and try it.

It is a damn comfy bra. This is the first bra I’ve had in YEARS that has not had issues with gaping between my breasts and the cups. This bra has absolutely no gaps. The website claims that the straps don’t slip, which is another major issue I’ve always had with bras, no matter how much I adjust the straps. While I can’t say that in the nearly 30 days I’ve had this bra a strap has never slipped at all, I can only think of twice that it has happened, as opposed to the twice every few minutes with a few of my other bras.

The only downside to this bra is that it’s not a push up bra, which is what I usually wear. However, I knew it wasn’t going to be one before I ordered. The try before you buy deal is for the classic t-shirt bra. Third Love does have several push up bras and I have looked at them all.

It’s been nearly 30 days and I have no intentions of returning my new bra. In fact, I have every intention of trying one of their push up bras. I should probably just go ahead and order it now.

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Teaching Tuesday: Teaching is not a “calling”

I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve heard that teaching is a “calling.” Usually this phrase is invoked to criticize teachers who want pesky things like raises, better benefits or better working conditions. After all, teachers shouldn’t be in it for the money, right? It’s a “calling.” People should only go in to teaching because they want to help others, regardless of whether or not they can actually live off of the salary provided.

Once, at a school board meeting when members of our community were remonstrating against a desperately needed referendum, a member of the community actually stood up and suggested that locals should be able to pay us in fruits and vegetables rather than a standard salary, because, after all, teaching is a calling and we shouldn’t be in it for the money.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t pay my mortgage with turnips.

Despite what many people want the general public to believe, teaching is not a “calling.” Teaching is a profession, just like any other. There are teachers who excel in the profession. They go above and beyond what is needed to ensure they make education as enjoyable and as meaningful as possible. This does not happen simply through some sort of divine intervention or some inborn talent they have. It happens because they work very hard, sacrificing countless hours of their own time with friends and family in order to work on lesson plans, grading, training, etc.

Teachers are not religious leaders. They do not live off the charity of their parishioners. They do not take vows of poverty. They do not have the ability to ex-communicate any member of their flock. Sure, administrators can expel students, but it is a whole lot easier for a pastor to tell someone not to come back to the church than it is to kick a student out of a school. There are no laws telling pastors how to run their churches, who they have to serve within the community, or how long they have to allow people to stay in their congregations. Anyone who wants to can become a pastor. Although many pastors do go to seminary or have religious training, there is no mandate that they do. Thanks to the internet, anyone who wants to can get ordained. Anyone who wants to can recruit followers and set up their own church. Teachers cannot do this.

Teachers, like people in a great many other professions, have to have college degrees. They have to pass state and national exams. They have to be licensed by the state. They are employees of a school corporation. Teachers, are doing a JOB. And like members of every other profession, they deserve to be properly compensated. Yes, believe it or not, teachers become teachers because they want to be paid for their knowledge and their skills. It is our lively hood, not a “calling.” While I love my job and work very hard at it, I go to work every day, not because of some divine “calling,” but because I have a family to support. And my children deserve a good life, just like the children I teach, whose parents are doctors, lawyers, accountants, mechanics, etc.

Indiana is currently experiencing a rather large teacher shortage. While “experts” speculate on why this is, any teacher can tell you why: teachers in Indiana are not well compensated, are being vilified in the media and are being forced to jump through ridiculous hoops to prove they are “qualified.” The state keeps rolling out new tests to measure students, slashing education budges and adding more to the already overworked shoulders of teachers. Is it a wonder that articles like this one in the Indianapolis Star are popping up in newspapers around the state?

While I appreciate the Star trying to shed light onto a very real problem, I found myself getting so annoyed when they referred to those who are still willing to become teachers as people who have a “calling.” This myth needs to be put to bed. People who become teachers may be following their passions. They are hopefully going into a profession where they feel their skills will be put to good use. But they are not on some divine mission, nor should they be treated as they are.

Teachers are professionals who want to do their jobs. They want to give their students the best educations they can. They deserve respect and compensation, not sainthood and poverty.


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Chocolate Monday: World Market Dark Chocolate with Fig Pistachio Filling

fig and pistachio whole barOne of the many reasons I love when my best friend comes to town is that she gives me a good excuse to go to stores that I love, but don’t often go to. World Market is a perfect example. Although there is a store located about 20 minutes from my house, it’s in another town and about the only time I go up there is when my kids have swimming. Since swimming nights are always such a rush, we really don’t have time to just pop into World Market to browse. Especially not when my kids love it and always ask for, well, just about everything. Trying to convince my daughter that she does not, in fact, need a bottle opener, even if it is shaped like a monkey, can be difficult.

But when my best friend wanted to go, it was the perfect chance to get out of the house and visit a favorite store.

Although I love the fun furniture and housewares at WM, my favorite part of going is always checking out the food aisles. I love all the international offerings as well as the funky, fun snacks they always have.

And I simply adore their chocolate selection. No visit to World Market is complete unless my basket has at least half a dozen different types of chocolate in it. On this particular trip I found a few tasty looking new treats to try.

fig and pistachio wrapperThe first one I grabbed was a World Market brand dark chocolate bar with fig pistachio filling. Although I am not a huge dark chocolate fan, I am trying to expand my horizons and find more dark chocolate I enjoy. Buying dark chocolate is always a risk for me. If it is paired with something super tart, like raspberry or lemon, I generally enjoy it. However, when it is paired with merely sweet or nutty flavors, I am often not a huge fan. Although neither figs nor pistachios are particularly tart, I love them both, so I figured this might be a risk worth taking.

The chocolate itself has the usual bitterness of dark chocolate. It is not so dark that I cannot eat it, but it is dark enough that I wouldn’t want to eat more than a small square of it on its own. The filling, which is supposed to be a mix of figs and pistachio has a very slight sweetness to it, which does offset the dark chocolate, but only very mildly. The filling has the grittiness of figs, but I had real trouble tasting any pistachio in it. There is a very slight creaminess to it that reminds me a teeny tiny bit of pistachios, but I’m not sure if that’s really there or if I’m trying to make some sort of connection.

fig and pistachio close upI gave my husband a square of the bar as well. He is the biggest pistachio fan I’ve ever met (he once even owned a pet chameleon named Pistachio). Without even a word from me, he commented, “Well, I can kind of taste the fig, but I don’t taste any pistachio.” My husband is not really a chocoholic, but he does like dark chocolate more than I do. He liked the piece but said he couldn’t eat an entire bar. Neither could I.

My kids both really liked it, but they also go gaga over plain ol’ Hershey bars and those cheap gold coins Santa leaves them in their stockings each year. My son has also eaten chocolate covered insects, so I’m not sure his love of it is quite the ringing endorsement it may initially seem.


Taste: 4/10 (the flavors were too subtle for me)
Appearance: 6/10 (the packaging was very pretty and the bar was appetizing)
Value: 4/10 (the bar is about $4 for two servings, but I know I won’t eat any more of it)

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